Unfortunately, my main research project while I'm in Ecuador does not concern bromeliads or involve climbing trees – that is a side project I'm doing as a way of continuing the work I started during the Tropical Biology field course this summer, out of personal interest. My principle project here is just about as interesting as well as probably providing information and materials more useful for conservation efforts, rather than simply sating my own curiousity. I'm studying the differences in mammal diversity between primary and secondary rainforests, using camera traps.
Camera traps are a good non-intrusive means of finding out what's around. Generally they are most useful for mammals and terrestrial birds. Many rainforest mammals are nocturnal, solitary, and secretive, so to compare populations between forest types, camera traps are a fair call.
However, some mammals also have very wide ranges. Smaller mammals, like agoutis and squirrels, perhaps not so much; but larger animals, such as tapirs and big cats, can haver decent sized territories. How to ensure to capture images of both the small and the large mammals of the rainforest? It may turn out that were you've placed a camera trap falls within the territory of just a handful of the animals of the forest. The logical solution would be to set up several cameras.
Unless it's just pretty pictures you want, it is important that you are not biasing your results, for example, by placing your cameras where it is easiest for you to access, or where you have already found tracks, or simply infront of a burrow, etc. The way I am trying to avoid this is by setting my cameras up according to a pre-designed grid.
Due to the limited number of cameras at my disposal, my grids will be 3 x 3 km with cameras spaced 1 km apart from each other. This requires sixteen camera traps, which is more than double the amount at the station. So, the other day when I started building the first grid, I set out the six working cameras (this actually took a day and a half of hiking through near impenetrable forest, which was both fun and gruelling). Twenty-one days from the day I put them out, I'll collect the cameras and position them in the next six positions of the grid. Once all sixteen positions have been covered for 21 days, I'll repeat the entire process in two more locations, which both happen to be far rougher terrain than the area I am currently studying; not to mention further from camp.
Anyway, in the mean time, here are some photos from a camera I had out on another test run. Yet to be identified down to species level.
|Brocket deer, Mazama sp. © Xaali O'Reilly|
|Armadillo! © Xaali O'Reilly|
|Chasing agoutis. © Xaali O'Reilly|
|More birdies. © Xaali O'Reilly|